Taste hooked owner on healthy donuts

Visitors to downtown Port Orchard will soon be able to sink their teeth into an array of locally made pastries when Dude’s Donuts Café opens on Bay Street.

Customers will be able to wash down the scrumptious treats with high-quality coffee since the soon-to-be-opened shop is owned by the same group that runs the popular European-style Pegasus Coffee House on Bainbridge Island.

Dude’s Donuts also might serve ice cream, said Matt Grady, an owner of the shop that expects to open by the end of summer.

Dude’s Donuts will be at 632 Bay St. Interestingly, the company has quietly been creating its scrumptious round delights in the back portion of that location for two years. The kitchen operation has been supplying donuts to several coffee shops and other businesses in Kitsap, Pierce and King counties. “The operation has flown under the radar,” Grady admitted.

Locations include: Yes Please Coffee and Lighthouse Coffee, in Port Orchard; Caffe Cocina in Poulsbo; Move PNW in Silverdale; Over the Moon Coffee Roasters in Kingston; Kitsap Community Food Co-op in Bremerton; and Pegasus in BI.

Healthy treats

Unlike donuts elsewhere that can contain synthetic ingredients and trans fats, Dude’s Donuts are healthy treats, Grady said. “We use all-natural ingredients, even down to the sprinkles on the donuts which have no artificial flavors or colors.”

The donuts are 100% plant-based, meaning no eggs or dairy are used, and are gluten-free, he noted. “Our donuts are scratch-baked in small quantities with high-quality ingredients.”

Grady struggled with how to market the donuts, understanding that when some people hear “all-natural” they question how they will taste.

“If you say the donuts are natural plant-based, vegan, gluten-free, all of that, there is a subset of the population that says that’s exactly what I’ve been looking for my whole life. But there is a bigger part of the population that says, ‘That’s not for me. Just give me a traditional donut.’”

The best way to overcome the objections is have them take a bite, Grady said. The taste is what sold Grady on them. “If you didn’t tell me they were made from plants and gluten-free I would never have known. I genuinely think these are delicious donuts in their own right.”

The idea of Dude’s Donuts was cooked up in 2019 by original owners Easton and Amanda Shepard of Poulsbo. The couple started out selling the donuts at the Bremerton Farmers Market in 2019. The Shepards then expanded into wholesale business by selling their goodies to coffee shops.

To increase production the couple in 2020 rented out the back of Sol Nutrition store and installed a kitchen. When the couple’s family grew with a second child, the Shepards decided to sell and move to Idaho.

By that point, Pegasus had become Dude Donut’s biggest customer.

“We started buying these donuts from Easton in 2021 and realized pretty quickly, we couldn’t keep them in stock,” Grady remembered. “We’d get two dozen, we’d sell out. We’d buy seven dozen, we’d sell out. I think we did 10 dozen one Saturday. That’s when we said, ‘These are a hit!’”

In December of 2021 the owners of Pegasus decided to purchase Dude’s Donuts. “We had no intention of being in the donut business at that point, but we absolutely loved the product and saw a lot of potential in it,” Grady said.